The application of scientific methods revolutionises cooking
There has been a quiet revolution in the kitchens of high end restaurants across the world over the past couple of decades with dramatic changes to the way in which food is prepared and served. These changes have already found their way into high street restaurants, into domestic kitchens, and into the product lines of major supermarkets.
These changes can be traced back to the influence of a small group of scientists, mostly physicists, who were particularly interested in the science behind of cooking processes. A series of workshops (‘International Workshops on Molecular Gastronomy’) held in Erice from 1992 were convened by Nicholas Kurti (a low temperature physicist from Oxford) and attended by prominent chefs and scientists (including several Nobel Laureates).
The workshops led to a number of scientist chef collaborations, included between Professor Peter Barham and Heston Blumenthal. Professor Barham is an expert in the science of cooking and what has become known as molecular gastronomy. Heston Blumenthal began to use a variety of scientific methods and equipment to enhance the flavour and texture of his food. The application of scientific methods transformed the fortunes of Blumenthal’s restaurant, The Fat Duck, which was awarded 3 Michelin stars in 2003. The application of scientific methods to cookery has now spread across the culinary world, reaching the domestic market as major supermarkets now stock do it yourself molecular gastronomy toolkits.
“Heston came to me because he wanted to understand some of the processes that go on in cooking; he wasn’t ready to accept rules about cooking just because they were in books.” Professor Peter Barham
“If people viewed cooking and eating food in a more empirical, precise way, I think they would become more aware of its importance when it comes to their physical and emotional wellbeing. This objective perspective doesn’t make cooking a cold, calculated process - in fact it’s quite the opposite – it encourages failure and creativity. Eating is such an essential part of everyday life that people often forget how exciting, experimental and joyful food can be.” Heston Blumenthal